Tapping Digital Beer

When it comes to the alcohol industry, beer brands are said to be at the forefront of digital innovation. Beers have been pushing hard in the technology space with innovations in apps, interactive adverts, geo-targeted promos and digital gifting and sharing to name a few. Why is it then that many recent efforts have been rated poorly against the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi when it comes to the ability to engage people socially? It seems strange that rallying a tribe of followers and converting them into loyal brand advocates that drive sales revenue has proven such a hard ask for beer brands.

Admittedly, some brands are standing out from the field. My favourite match from the 2014 World Cup wasn’t Germany’s takedown of host nation Brazil, but rather the frenzy of activity among the likes of Carlsberg, Carling and, of course, Cup sponsors Budweiser. We’ve seen a co-branded web series and content targeted to specific social platforms – like Twitter cards that allow users to place votes on favourite players during games, along with viral video campaigns that managed to steal the show on social media sites.

But when it came to winning the hearts and minds of football fans across the world many brands fell short. Efforts involving, in one way or another, that little device we all have in our pockets – not always on but always on us, seemed to all start at the bar. They lived solely ‘on premise’ with the single-minded purpose of increasing on-trade sales, literally overnight. Think flashing bottles and payment tech.

The more successful efforts though came from brands taking the road less travelled, the ones that realised that perhaps a smarter path to sales growth is achievable by other means. For my money, the only brands to make it out of the group stages were those focused on creating open-ended, ongoing experiences.

And that’s the key word here, experiences.

The winning brands succeeded in bridging the gap between people’s online and offline worlds. They built immersive ways to experience the World Cup. All the while managing to refrain from pushing the brand in front of people. In short, success came from speaking to the right people, for the right reasons, in the right way, at the right time. Easy right? Evidently not.

Those brands finding themselves on the early plane home might do well to contemplate ways in which they can resist the urge to simply expose consumers to their brand through technology. They need to focus on developing a far deeper understanding of people’s lives first and then look for the experience opportunities at play.

Today, technology affords marketers the chance to evolve traditional storytelling. It allows them to remove the full stop and begin to develop ways of becoming part of people’s worlds, to design experiences that put people at the heart of the story. It’s the emotional, personal connection of these experiences that moves people to interact, take ownership and share. 

Successful brand experiences can be defined as ones that shift the brand from being the main source of messaging, instead placing it as guide for the journey. Creative digital thinking should hero the user and give them the tools to weave the brand into their own social worlds and start their own conversations.

In our perhaps overly connected lives, these interactions set the table stakes for success. For a brand to have any hope of making the finals it should look to be judged on the ability to deliver digital, social experiences that are relevant, meaningful and that actually enhance our lives. Roll-on Russia 2018.

Written by Barry Walker, Strategist at Digit


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